Aspar To Discuss Moto2 Future With Aprilia Next Week

Aprilia's shock decision to cease development on its Moto2 project created many victims, but the team worst affected are probably Team Aspar. The Valencian team, run by Jorge "Aspar" Martinez, have probably been Aprilia's closest partners in their years in the 125 and 250 class, and have invested a great deal in both the relationship and in helping the Italian factory to develop their motorcycles. This cooperation had been extended into the new Moto2 class, with Aspar signing both 125 World Champion Julian Simon and the Frenchman Mike di Meglio to race the Aprilia framed entry in the series.

Aprilia's withdrawal has left Aspar high and dry, and the team needs to quickly find a solution if they are to compete next season. To this end, Martinez and team manager Gino Borsoi is to fly to Italy next Tuesday to meet with Aprilia to discuss possible ways of finding their way out of the situation. "It would be best if we could find a solution with Aprilia," the team management told the Spanish press agency EFE, "but if we don't, we will look for the most competitive of the many existing options, to allow us to pursue our objective of fighting for the championship."

The announcement had come as a shock to the Aspar Team. "The news was a huge surprise to us in the team. We were unaware of the reasons for the decision, and were counting on Aprilia to supply us with bikes for next season," the team management said. "We thought that development was continuing on the project, and we were counting on Aprilia for our entry into the Moto2 class next season." The situation was made worse because the team already had "top level international sponsors" lined up to take part.

Just what solution Aspar is after is unclear. Other than a reversal of the decision - unlikely, if not entirely impossible - speculation has centered on the Spanish team taking over development and commercial exploitation of the chassis, selling it on to the other four or five teams which had also signed up for the Aprilia chassis. Whatever accommodation is reached is unlikely to be cheap for Aprilia. Their withdrawal almost certainly cost Aspar a sizable sum of money - according to Dennis Noyes of SpeedTV, the Aprilia chassis was due to sell for approximately $250,000, and the team will have already made considerable investment to support the chassis - and they will want to ensure that their losses are covered. This far into the project, many contracts will already have been signed, and breaking them could be expensive, as the team implied when they said that they "want some assurances about the project."

Despite Aspar's statements that Aprilia's withdrawal came as a "big surprise," many people have wondered why Aprilia was even entering the class. Aprilia had at first publicly declared themselves uninterested in the series, especially after the announcement came that all entries would be powered by a Honda four-cylinder 600cc four stroke. Yet later they reversed that decision, announcing they would be building a chassis for the class. Perhaps they thought to capitalize on the publicity the new class is likely to generate, though the irony of a Honda-powered bike covered in giant Aprilia stickers winning races would not have been lost on the Italian factory, especially as Honda are widely accused of having killed off the former 250 class which Aprilia dominated. Internal management disputes between Aprilia CEO Roberto Colaninno, Aprilia product development director Leo Mercanti and racing director Giampiero Sacchi are believed to have given rise to Colaninno's decision to pull the plug on the whole deal.

Whatever happens to Aprilia's Moto2 project, the Aspar team are determined to make their mark in the new class. They had elected to go with Aprilia because they thought it was their best option of competing, and any replacement would have to achieve those same goals. "We will opt for the project with the best chances of success," Martinez said. "Both Julian and Mike will have the best equipment possible at their disposal, to allow them to fight for the title."

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What's unfortunate about this, among other things, is the possibility of Aprilia burning their bridge with Aspar's team. This is pure speculation here, but if indeed Aprilia are looking into getting back into MotoGP once the new 1,000cc regulations come online, then based on their past collaborations up to this point the Aspar team would be a great choice to participate with. Martinez no doubt brings plenty of sponsorship to the table, plus...even though the Aspar team will use a Ducati this season, the idea of possibly running a likely factory-backed effort with Aprilia in the near-future must at least be intriguing to him.